With the Yankee 25-man roster more or less figured out, I thought I would take a look at who the potential minor league fill-ins at each position are likely to be if injury or ineffectiveness strike Yankee regulars or bench players.
1b: Should anything happen to Mark Teixeira, Eric Chavez (assuming he makes the 25-man roster) will likely be the person to take Teixeira’s place. There are no other first basemen on the 40-man roster at present, but I imagine Jorge Vazquez, who is having a monster spring (.464/.483/.893 with 3 homers and 3 doubles) will likely be the first callup. After Vazquez, the next likely candidate is Brandon Laird, who was just 1 for 19 in the spring. Both Vazquez and Laird will probably be in AAA, with Vazquez alternating between 1b and DH and Laird playing a mix of OF, 3rd, and 1st.
2b: If something were to happen to Robinson Cano, Eduardo Nunez (assuming he beats out Ramiro Pena as the utilityman) would likely take Cano’s place. If this happens, or if Nunez gets hurt, the next callup could either be Ramiro Pena or Kevin Russo. I would probably choose Russo because he has more offensive capability (which admittedly, is not saying much), though Pena is a better defender. David Adams could play his way into the mix if he gets off to a strong start and looks fully recovered from his injury.
SS: The unsavory duo of Nunez and Pena are likely to be the first replacements should anything happen to the Captain. Beyond those two, the next possible replacement is Reegie Corona, whose .660 OPS at Scranton last season did not exactly set the world on fire. Seriously, don’t get injured Derek. Where have you gone, Carmen Angelini?
3b: Eric Chavez will be the primary backup at 3rd as well, but should anything happen to A-Rod or Chavez, Brandon Laird is likely the best alternative. He’s not great defensively at the position, but from what I’ve seen in Spring Training he should be able to hold his own. Also, he has enough pop in his bat that he could be able to contribute a little on the offensive end. After Laird, the next guys to look at would be Russo or Corona.
C: With Joe Girardi adamant that Jorge Posada is a fulltime DH in 2011, he will not be in the mix to replace an injured Martin or Montero (if he makes the squad). With Francisco Cervelli out for a little while longer, the Yankees might consider bringing in a veteran retread like Gustavo Molina (or somebody who gets cut from another team) rather than pushing Austin Romine to the bigs. In terms of minor league catching depth, Austin Romine is probably the best bet, and there aren’t many other legitimate options.
OF: Since the Yankees are fortunate enough to have two legitimate centerfielders playing in their outfield, an injury to Curtis Granderson would likely cause the Yankees to move Brett Gardner to center and play Andruw Jones in left. The Yankees have some decent outfield options who are likely to be in AAA, including Justin Maxwell, Greg Golson, and Brandon Laird. Golson is likely the best defender of the trio, while Laird has the best bat, and Maxwell brings a little of both to the table. I’m not sure if the Yankees would trust Laird in the outfield just yet, so I imagine Golson or Maxwell would be next in line.
SP: The starting pitcher depth depends somewhat on who wins the battle for the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation, and how healthy Sergio Mitre is. The odd man out among Mitre, Colon, and Nova could find himself in AAA (with one winning the 5th starter spot and one serving as long reliever), and would likely be the first person called up in the event of an injury in the rotation. David Phelps would likely be the next option, because he has more AAA experience than Adam Warren, Andrew Brackman, or Hector Noesi. Manny Banuelos, despite all the hoopla this spring, is likely behind these guys on the depth chart because of experience and innings limits. Overall, the Yankees have some good starting pitcher depth, which is important given that a team can usually expect to use at least 7-8 starters in a season.
RP: The Yankees will have some intriguing choices if a member of the bullpen were to go down. Luis Ayala and Mark Prior have looked the best so far, albeit in limited samples. Romulo Sanchez has not pitched exceptionally well this spring, but is reporting drawing interest from scouts around the league. Sanchez is out of options, so if he doesn’t break camp with the big club the Yankees could lose him to another team. For lefty relievers, the only other option is Andrew Sisco, who has walked 4 in 3 1/3 hitless innings thus far.
So what can we see from the Yankees’ depth chart? Overall, they have pretty good starting pitching, catching, and outfield depth, but the possible replacements in the infield are pretty scary. Of course, no team can have top prospects waiting in the wings at every position, and it would be impossible to come anywhere close to replacing the production of Cano, Jeter, Teixeira or Rodriguez. Here’s hoping that all these guys are able to stay healthy, and we’ll never have to see Pena or Nunez taking any meaningful at bats.
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